EARLY COMERS ON TINKER’S RIDGE
By Mrs. Cora Ellis Austin
My father, G. W. Ellis and his family moved from Bureau county, Illinois, to York county in the spring of 1879. Our family consisted of the parents, two sons, Morris and Foster, and two daughters, Gertie and myself (Cora). Later my father’s son, Ed., by a former marriage, and my mother’s son, John, by a former marriage, came. My father bought a quarter section of land in the Tinker Ridge neighborhood. The first year we lived on the Walpole place adjoining our land as ours was raw prairie. Brother Ed. broke prairie with a team of oxen. I was eleven years old and brother "Morry" was ten and we thought we were surely enjoying something when we trailed along after him in the damp furrows, barefooted.
We raised a wonderful crop of flax on the new ground, but the price was low when we sold it so we did not benefit very much financially. Father gave me a strip of ground running from the house to the road, which was several rods, for a flower garden and surely had lovely flowers there. The scent of petunias, four-o-clocks and others take me back at once to my flowers on the old farm.
The Indians used to come from their camps on the Blue river and travel all over the country begging for things to eat. They would take a sick chicken or a dog as readily as they would a loaf of bread. When they talked to each other their language was just a series of grunts but they understood each other.
Our home was one and one-half miles east of the Granger school house. A Sunday school was organized there about 1881 and my father served as superintendent. We lived in the Liberty school district, the school house being one and one-half miles east of our home. Among the teachers there I remember are Herbert Reisinger, Jennie Wheeler (Mrs. Frank Ellis) and Lillie Quigley of York. My small brother, Foster, was much enamored of Miss Quigley. One day he came running into the house exclaiming, "I know what the meadow lark says. It says Miss Quigley! Miss Quigley! Oh my sweet, pretty girl!" And that is what it seems to me to say even after all the 50 odd years have gone by.
My father’s brother, Wm. Ellis, owned the land adjoining us on the west, but he lived over on Beaver Creek for some time before moving to his own farm. Our families used to visit each other quite often, on Sundays. In the winter time no matter how cold the weather, we would bundle up and climb into the straw-filled lumber wagon, with plenty of quilts and blankets and drive to Uncle Will’s over on Beaver Creek. Some times father would get out and walk a distance to "warm up." Will Mann farmed Uncle Will’s place at one time. He lived in a sod house and his two sisters, Laura (Wullbrandt) and Lydia (McGregor) kept house for him. Lydia played the violin and could dance a jig with the best of them. Will and Steve Mann and Lydia played for dances and I used to "chord" for them on the organ some times.
We used to have literary and spelling school at the Granger school house with large crowds attending. I spelled the house down one night on the word "vain." It had been spelled two ways and I spelled it the only way that was left, although I knew it was not correct according to the definition given by the pronouncer. I carried off the honors any way.
Our neighbors in the early days were Babels, Feeneys, Richard Brookes, Hathaways, Walpoles, Gunlachs and many others. Mr. Babel had very poor health and Mrs. Babel did all the farm work besides raising a family of several girls and one boy. Peter Feeney was quite a character. He farmed with a pair of oxen for several years, driving them to town or wherever he went. He would hitch them to the running gears of a wagon and off he would go, pell mell, yelling at his oxen so he could be heard a mile away. After awhile he bought a team of horses and he had more than one runaway with them.
Mrs. Hathaway had a carpet loom and wove carpet for everybody around. No doubt she wove thousands of yards. The young folks used to enjoy going to the Hathaway [Hathway] home – they were always welcome.
Fair time at York was the high spot of entertainment for the younger element. Whole families would start early in the morning in their lumber wagons, taking plenty of lunch for dinner and supper and watermelons galore, spending the whole day enjoying the exhibits, races and visiting with friends. Oftentimes we would attend two or three days of the fair.
One winter L. S. Lesh taught a singing school at the Liberty school house. He also taught singing at Granger one winter. He lived in the Liberty district. The late Geo. F. Corcoran was one of the pupils at the Granger school where I attended one term and at noon-times he would teach the "big girls" how to dance. J. B. Allens and James Kibbles were also among our neighbors. The Kibble home was another place where the young folks always felt welcome and were always royally entertained. Mrs. Kibble (Aunt Tempy) was a little wisp of a woman of unbounded energy. She pierced my ears for me, thrusting a threaded darning needle through the lobes of my ears into a ball of yarn, drawing the thread through and tying it to remain until the place was healed.
Father disposed of his farm in 1885 and moved to York living there six years. While there he was Commander of the G. A. R. [C. A. R.] post a part of the time. I taught school in district 19 in the winter of '82 and '83, being less than 15 years old when I began teaching. There I met my fate in the person of E. E. Austin. We celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary Oct. 22, 1935.